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Organ, eye and tissue donors to be honored at Rose Parade
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Organ, eye and tissue donors to be honored at Rose Parade

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Organ, eye and tissue donors to be honored at Rose Parade

Attendees of the annual Rose Ceremony honoring organ and tissue donors included, front from left, Jana Lacera, rose ceremony coordinator and director of Bioethics, Community Healthcare System; Heather Runyan, a donor family representative and guest of honor; Caitlin Stephen, a cornea transplant recipient and guest of honor; and back from left, Michael Henderson, professional services coordinator, Vision First; Chaplain Evonne Carter-Williams, St. Mary Medical Center; Alex Van Zant, director of Professional Services, VisionFirst; Evelyn Schultz, vice president Internal Operations, Gift of Hope; Kevin Cmunt, president and CEO, Gift of Hope; Brian Tibbot, Life Line Stem Cell; Alice Jenkins, donation coordinator, Gift of Hope.

Community Healthcare System, Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network and VisionFirst recently recognized organ, eye and tissue donors in Northwest Indiana who will soon be given a national stage.

They offered send-off roses that will contribute to the Donate Life Float in the 2020 Rose Parade. Community Hospital in Munster, St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago and St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart sponsored 50 roses with messages from donor families.

“Working in health care at the hospitals of Community Healthcare System, everyone understands what the families are going through after losing a loved one,” said Jana Lacera, rose ceremony coordinator and director of Bioethics. “These dedicated roses and the tributes they carry add special meaning not only for the families of our organ and tissue donors, but serve to inspire others to become organ, eye and tissue donors as well. Supporting the Donate Life float is just one of the ways the hospitals of Community Healthcare System honor and remembers donors and their generous contributions.”

Cornea recipient Caitlin Stephen was diagnosed in high school with keratoconus, a progressive eye disease that caused her immense difficult with everyday tasks like driving. She received the gift of sight from a donor in 2011.

“Thanks to the generosity of my cornea donor, I was able to see clearly as I walked down the aisle at my wedding a few years ago,” she said. “I also was able to see my beautiful daughter’s face clearly when she was born last year. Those moments would not have been possible without the generous young man and his family that said yes to donation. He literally gave me a new outlook on my future.”

The 131th Rose Parade on Jan. 1 in Pasadena, Calif. will feature the Donate Life float carrying transplant recipients, living donors and donor families.

Heather Runyon, for instance, said her family never wavered when considered tissue and organ donations after her husband Dan Runyon died. Runyon, a middle school science teacher who also helped coach the track and football teams at Grimmer Middle School in Schererville, died at 45 from cardiac arrest while running.

“I knew organ donation was his wish even before we were married,” she said. “I knew he didn’t want to be buried with vital and precious gifts that could be shared with others if and when his time on earth was up. As you can imagine, it was extremely overwhelming when Gift of Hope shared that through donation, Dan was able to help 222 people from 16 different states."

Runyon said that 156 people received bone grafts, 60 received skin grafts and six received tendon/ligament transplants.

"He can continue to help people with his tissue donation as some of his gifts can be used up to five years from the date of recovery,” Runyon said.

The late father of two went on to have a far-reaching impact on the world.

“When living, Dan would do whatever he could to help others … to help me, our children, his friends and family and his students. And in his final act here on earth,” she said, “He offered himself through the selfless act of donation in order that others could thrive. It is amazing that even in death, my husband is able to make such an impact and help other people.”

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.

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